K-drama actors are talented, good looking, and able to cry on a dime. But did you know that some can also sing, dance, rap, and perform intricate choreography for millions of fans? If you’ve watched some K-dramas (like these top picks on Netflix) but have yet to discover K-pop, you may find that many of your favorite actors started their careers as singers and dancers—or “idols” as they’re commonly referred to in Korea.
That scary guy in Vincenzo? He’s the main rapper of K-pop group 2PM. The leading lady in Start-Up? She was the main vocalist in Miss A. Transitioning from idol to actor isn’t much of a stretch, as K-pop idols need acting skills for their cinematic music videos, variety show appearances, and live broadcasts to fans.
Here are 10 multi-talented idols who have proven their acting chops in various K-dramas throughout the years.
Lee Ji-eun / IU
IU is one of the most successful solo female K-pop idols. Since the start of her singing career in 2008 she’s released five albums and nine EP’s, winning awards and accolades throughout Korea. In 2011, IU earned a supporting role in Dream High. Since then, she’s starred in K-dramas Hotel Del Luna, My Mister, Persona and Bel Ami, among others. In 2014 IU won the Best New Actress at the KBS Drama Awards for You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin. She still releases new music with her latest album, Lilac, debuting at the top of the Gaon album charts.
Cha Eun-woo / Eunwoo
K-pop fans know ASTRO’s Eunwoo for his good looks, cool dance moves, and charming visuals. Lucky for them, he’s also a constant fixture in K-dramas! Before ASTRO debuted in 2016, Cha Eun-woo filmed the web drama To Be Continued. His first leading television role came in 2018 in Gangnam Beauty. In 2019 Cha Eun-woo won the Excellence Award at the MBC Drama Awards for his portrayal of Prince Dowon in Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryhung. He followed that with a starring role in True Beauty. Cha Eun-woo’s next project will be as a Navy officer in the film Decibel.
Park Soo-young / Joy
Red Velvet member Joy is booked and busy. Her girl group is releasing an album this month while she simultaneously begins filming her latest K-drama. Joy debuted as an idol for SM Entertainment with Red Velvet in 2014. Her first acting role came in 2017 in The Liar and His Lover. Joy quickly followed this up with a role in Tempted. She is set to co-star in Just One Person alongside Ahn Eun-jin and Park Sung-hoon. The K-drama will be released later in 2021.
Do Kyung-soo / D.O.
One of the longest running K-pop groups to achieve international success is EXO (along with its numerous subgroups like EXO-K and EXO-M). The group’s fans know Do Kyung-soo as vocal powerhouse D.O., but he’s also a well-established film and K-drama actor, dating back to his role in 2014’s It’s Okay, That’s Love. He went on to star in Pure Love, My Annoying Brother, Hello Monster, Room No.7, Swing Kids, and 100 Days My Prince. You can see Do Kyung-soo’s next in the feature film Secret.
Currently one of the most successful K-drama actors, Bae Suzy actually started her career as a K-pop idol. In 2010 she debuted with girl group Miss A under JYP Entertainment. Bae Suzy went on to host variety shows and dabble in acting, landing her first role in 2011’s Dream High. She followed this with a string of K-drama hits including Big, While You Were Sleeping, Vagabond, and Start-Up. Multitalented is perhaps an understatement, as Bae Suzy became the first Korean woman to win rookie awards for singing, drama, film, and variety programs.
Park Jinyoung / Jinyoung
Park Jinyoung is a K-pop star who debuted as a member of GOT7 in 2014. GOT7 went on to gain international fame before leaving entertainment company JYP in 2021. Park Jinyoung’s acting career started prior to GOT7 when he was cast in a supporting role in Dream High 2. He followed this with roles in This Is My Love, Legend Of The Blue Sea, He Is Psychometric and When My Love Blooms. He can currently be seen in the TVN drama Devil Judge and will star in upcoming drama Yumi’s Cell.
Nam Gyu-ri / Gyuri
Currently co-starring as Ahn Ga-yeong in the TVN/Netflix K-drama You Are My Spring, Nam Gyu-ri actually began her career as the leader of a K-pop trio SeeYa. The group debuted in 2006 and split in 2009 due to contract disputes. Nam Gyu-ri went on to a successful acting career starring in dramas. Prior to You Are My Spring, she appeared in Life Is Beautiful, 49 Days, Yeah, That’s How It Is, Children of Nobody, and Kairos.
Ok Taec-yeon / Taecyeon
Perhaps my favorite K-drama villain of all time for his role in Vincenzo, Ok Taecyeon is also a famous K-pop idol. He debuted in 2008 as the main rapper of popular JYP Entertainment group, 2PM. Since then, he’s carved out a successful acting career with roles in Cinderella’s Sister, Wonderful Days, Assembly, Bring It On, Ghost, Goo-hae-joo and, of course, Vincenzo. Fans can see Ok Taecyeon next in Tale of the Secret Royal Inspector and Jo Yi in November of 2021. 2PM fans welcomed the group’s reunion in 2021 with their seventh studio album, Must.
Im Yoon-ah / Yoona
An original member of super group Girls Generation, Im Yoon-ah debuted as idol Yoona in 2007. That same year she made her acting debut in a supporting role in Two Outs in the Ninth Inning. Im Yoon-ah landed her first leading part in You Are My Destiny in 2008. The role earned her several Best New Actress awards. Since then, she’s starred in several K-dramas including Cinderella Man, Love Rain, Prime Minister and I, The K2, and Hush. She also had lead roles in the films Exit and Miracle.
Kim Ro-woon / Rowoon
With movie-star good looks, it’s no surprise Rowoon has found success as an actor. He originally debuted with K-pop group SF9 in 2016. Since then he’s had acting roles in K-dramas School 2017, About Time, and Where Stars Land. But it was his star-making role as the main character’s love interest in Extraordinary You that earned him an award for Best New Actor at the 2019 MBC Drama Awards. Rowoon will next star in the historical drama Yeonmo due for release in September, 2021.